Retrospecstive 2021: slight return

One more look in the rear-view mirror before 2021 disappears completely… After the multi-course blowout of choosing 25 recordings of the year, this is more of a digestif, if you will. A few events and developments that gave me cause for celebration: one each for pop, classical, TV, media and film. Bon ‘Voyage’: the return…

Retrospecstive 2021: Adrian Ainsworth’s 25 recordings of the year

As ever, blood, sweat, tears and several industrial-strength mugs of tea have gone into this year’s round-up. Even while the ongoing impact of the pandemic continues to make musicians’ lives uncertain at best and hellish at worst, they have still managed to do us listeners proud. I have already written about some of the below…

Stephen Hough Releases Chopin’s Nocturnes

As winter approaches why do classical music lovers tend to whip out the nocturnes? Chopin’s nocturnes conjure up cosy evenings by the fire, home concerts, cigars and cognac. When I was a child, record covers of Chopin, certainly propagated this image. This is probably why Chopin’s music seems accessible, approachable. A little too accessible at…

Two of US: Lucas Meachem & Irina Meachem, ‘Shall We Gather’

This is a big, bold, beautiful beast of an album: a concept recital that uses song to grapple with belonging, community and how those noble aims align with what it means to be American. Let me say at the outset that this is a bravura performance by both singer and pianist. This may be a…

Darkness and Light: Nightlight – Cordelia Williams, piano

Darkness and light pervade Cordelia Williams’ latest release, Nightlight, which explores the many facets of nighttime – its turmoil, terror and tenderness, and the longing for and consolation of light – through a programme of brooding, atmospheric and ultimately consoling music.

Climbing the walls: ‘Jenůfa’, Royal Opera House

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the first opera I’ve seen at Covent Garden since lockdown is this unflinching depiction of confinement and familial dysfunction, Claus Guth’s new staging of Janáček’s masterpiece, ‘Jenůfa’. (Please beware spoilers in this piece – I’ll be roaming around the entirety of the plot, the better to discuss the production.) The drama…

Vital organ: Anna Lapwood, ‘Images’

No matter how long I’ve listened seriously to classical music – and with a mere decade of doing so behind me, I’m still one of the beginners – it’s always a good thing to be reminded that I’ll remain a learner for the duration, until my senses fail. There are always new sounds and new…

Solem Quartet plays Thomas Ades

For their debut album the Solem Quartet embrace the theme of night and day. Heading up the line-up of contemporary composers on this concept album, we have Thomas Adès, with Solem Quartet’s new commission of Four Quarters. Commencing with Nightfall, febrile violins denote ancient stars in distant galaxies with groaning cello and viola signifying earth. In Morning Dew, plucked violin strings…

Rock opera: ENO’s ‘Tosca’ at South Facing Festival

Once there was a time when I would have been fully on top of such exciting news: a rock festival just down the road at Crystal Palace Bowl. Only a few stops on the train, or a mere jaunt on the bus, without any need to negotiate the seething metropolis. In fact, the news reached…

Manc union: Prom 20, Manchester Collective with Mahan Esfahani

Back to the ‘dome from home’ for another evening, and for what turned out to be one of the most thrilling Proms I’ve ever attended, for a whole host of reasons. Mainly, I think it was the sheer energy sustained throughout – the performers set out to electrify the audience, and succeeded. Rewind to what…